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Democratic Governance Facility Finally Exits Uganda, Thousands Left Jobless

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Democratic Governance Facility exits leaving thousands jobless The New Light Paper

Last Monday, the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) stopped operating in Uganda.

The facility was shut down after the government accused it in the media of funding criminal acts in Uganda. Seven development partners, including Austria, Denmark, the European Union (EU), Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, formed the DGF in 2011.

85 state and non-state implementing partners in Uganda had received financing from DGF. Its departure has significantly affected people, communities, and institutions. DGF infused $350 million (Shs 1.3 trillion) into Uganda’s economy throughout the course of the four-year program (2018-2022).

The National Bureau for NGOs (NGO Bureau), the Institute of Parliamentary Studies (IPS), the Ugandan Parliament, the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, the Nebbi District Local Government, the Uganda Law Council, Uganda Law Society, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission were notable recipients of DGF funding.

Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), the African Youth Initiative Network (AY- INET), the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), the Food Rights Alliance (FRA), ActionAid International Uganda (AAIU), and others were also recipients.

The government not only participated heavily in program implementation but also held governance posts within the DGF. The DGF Board, Steering Committee, and talks were attended by representatives from four federal ministries.


President Yoweri Museveni issued a directive to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija to halt all DGF operations in February 2021, stating that the facility was funding subversive activities in Uganda.

The president claimed in a letter to Kasaija that the DGF, a £100 million fund, had been allowed by the ministry of finance to be run exclusively by a foreign mission in Uganda without the knowledge or agreement of the government. Museveni denounced the funding of initiatives and groups working to overthrow the government under the pretense of enhancing governance.

Following a meeting with the Danish minister of development cooperation, Flemming Moller Mortensen, on June 22, 2022, the president decided to end the suspension of the DGF after 16 months. This decision was made in July 2022.


Jan Sadek, the chair of the DGF Board and the ambassador of the European Union to Uganda, expressed his regret during the event marking the closure of the DGF.

He admitted that the closure of DGF not only meant losing a financial partner but also signaled the conclusion of a 12-year-long group effort to give a voice to the voiceless, close the gap between citizens and the state, and promote a culture of democratic government throughout Uganda.

“We acknowledge the contribution of civil society to Uganda’s advancement of development and governance. Without your tireless efforts, tens of thousands of people would not have had access to legal counsel; many torture and war victims would not have received care and support; the public would not have had vital access to information on public contracts; and numerous progressive laws and policies would not have been passed during the DGF’s existence, Sadek said.

He apologized for not being able to continue the DGF arrangement but promised to match additional programs with government priorities in order to improve Uganda’s democratic governance. He compared the process of advancing democracy to driving on Uganda’s congested highways, where it is more like negotiating boda-bodas, taxis, and trucks on Jinja road than cruising on the expressway to Entebbe.

Under the DGF, more than 350,000 people received legal aid, 15,000 individuals, including conflict victims, received treatment and counseling, 14,000 women representatives were supported in engaging decision-making structures, about 5,000 public forums were held where citizens could interact with government representatives to influence laws and policies, and 6,000 recommendations from electees were taken into consideration.


Several beneficiaries of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) provided interviews for this story and shared their opinions on the closure and its effects.

According to Julius Mukunda, executive director of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), the closing of DGF left a sizable vacuum because 40% of their budget was dependent on it. He emphasized how their work had been impacted by lower fieldwork, decreasing media awareness, office closures, and job losses.

Mukunda highlighted their resolve to im- prove and carry on with their work despite the difficulties. The Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda’s spokesman, Marlon Agaba, acknowledged the scale and significance of DGF as a financial source that supported over 75 organizations.

He observed that their operations had decreased as a result of the shutdown, now serving only nine districts as opposed to the prior 12. Agaba emphasized the ongoing financing vacuum created by the suspension and expressed optimism that additional donors will step forward to help fund their activities.

The shutdown of DGF had a substantial impact on the Uganda Law Society’s (ULS) legal aid programme and help to the poor, according to Bernard Oundo, ULS president. He brought up their efforts to secure additional funding as well as the creation of a legitimate basket fund to support their activities.

The executive director of the African Center for Media Excellence (ACME), Dr. George Lugalambi, recognised DGF as a significant donor of their media initiatives.

He said that despite obstacles, they were able to get funding for particular initiatives like the Uganda Journalism Awards. Lugalambi acknowledged the challenge of finding new investors to fill the void left by DGF, but he vowed to keep looking for more sources of support.

He stressed their relationship with the government as well as their present emphasis on educating journalists about public policy issues like traffic safety.

The beneficiaries emphasized their resolve to carry on with their job and find new financing sources despite the closure of DGF. They were dedicated to completing the government’s efforts in accomplishing the nation’s development goals and hoped that the former financing partners of DGF would continue to support them.

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